Pie in the sky or just plain politicking?

2011-01-22 14:06

As official details from government ­remain scant on how it will deliver the promised five million jobs by 2020, City Press spoke to analysts to see how the state can facilitate greater ­employment.

This as even the ruling ANC fell short of ­providing details of how each of the jobs it forecasts in its identified sectors would be achieved.

The economists we spoke to ­expressed doubts that government would manage to reach its ambitious sector-specific targets on deadline.

But they offered suggestions on how government could get closer to the ­target.

Industrial Development Corporation economist Lumkile Mondi said government could create more jobs if it were to focus on tried-and-­tested areas instead of trying to create ­employment from the little-known green sector.

“The labour absorptiveness of the green sector and the cost per job is very high,” said Mondi.

He said the manufacturing sector should be developed and start ­to focus on supplying beneficiated products to other countries instead of only providing raw materials.

“But beneficiation requires a lot of energy and the country lacks it at the moment,” Mondi said.

Economist Mike Schussler said the targets were possible, but unlikely to be achieved.

“Investors, who need to help us ­create these jobs, might be concerned about the tightening of labour laws.”

Schussler said he was impressed by the way government planned to achieve its targets.

“The government realises that we can’t depend on jobs created through the low rand and inflation, but we first need to get stuff that really matters right, like having a decent education system and a conducive environment to create and grow small businesses,” he said.

Another stumbling block to job growth, he said, was labour continuously receiving above-inflation wages, in so doing making it expensive for ­companies to hire employees.

This week, government indicated that the proposed labour-law changes could be markedly different by the time they become law.

Wits University economics ­Professor Chris Malikane said: “As long as we are indifferent about how the state is supposed to lead the process of job creation, we will end up relying too much on the private sector.”

Malikane further questioned how ­government was going to achieve its goal of transforming “the South ­African economy without a state that is properly capacitated”.

Malikane’s comment came as there were 292 265 (21.7%) vacant ­positions in the public sector at the end of last year.

The public service and administration department’s spokesperson, ­Dumisani Nkwamba, said the ­vacancies comprised both funded and ­non-funded posts.

Malikane said he was disappointed that there were no concrete measures to support and shield the manufacturing sector from global competition.

Eskom economist Kabelo Masike said it would take serious ­concessions from labour, business and government to get anywhere close to the jobs ­target.

“We should have a clear process of review and be able to measure what we have achieved as we move along,” he said.

Khulile Nkushubana, general ­secretary of the Confederation of South African Workers’ Unions, ­dismissed the jobs target as just a ­political statement meant to deliver votes during the local government elections.

“The ANC talks about this plan while we have not heard of a shift from the macroeconomic-policy framework that places investors’ interests first,” said Nkushubana.

He said investors only aimed to make profits, not create jobs.

“In our country we have people who are employed but live in plastic shacks and the youth cannot afford to get ­married.

“The government must come up with a plan to create immediate, decent jobs for everyone who is unemployed,” he said.

The economy shed one million jobs in 2009, suggesting that the jobs plan would need to create more jobs to ­significantly dent the unemployment rate, which is hovering around 24%.

Business Unity SA deputy chief ­executive Raymond Parsons said it was important that the country ­attempted to achieve the target.

“The country needs a sustained growth of at least 7% per annum over a 20-year period to significantly ­reduce unemployment,” said Parsons.

He suggested that one way of achieving the target was to give priority to education and skills development.

“We should start having a state where policy and institutions are aligned and monitored to deliver ­economic integration with appropriate infrastructure and wages that ­reflect skills and productivity.

“These activities need to happen in tandem and should take into account the state’s capacity,” said Parsons.

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